Self-forgiveness is hard. I think it has to do with how aware we are of ourselves. Every thought, every deed. We know about them. The imperfection of being human is continuous in everything we do, think, say or feel.
“I hate her.”
“Those people are stupid.”
“What if I smacked him?”
“What if I tripped her down the stairs?”
“What would happen to me if I did X,Y or Z?”
Where the hell do those thoughts come from?
“I didn’t do A, B, or C and that makes me a bad person.”
“I helped him and he didn’t say thank you. So ungrateful. That’s the last time I do that.”
“I yelled at her. I’m so horrible.”
“I ignored them.”
“I didn’t say hello.”
“That makes me a bad, self-centered person. I don’t deserve anything positive to happen to me in my life, because I said, did or thought X, Y and Z.”
It seems like a mathematical, logic problem. If A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C.
If I don’t say “Hello” that makes me a bad person and bad people are unworthy of love. Therefore, I am unworthy of love.
Often times, when we judge ourselves unworthy or negative in some way, it is not we who are really doing the judging. If we stop, close our eyes and look within us, we’ll find that the judge is a parent, teacher, friend or family member from our past. We may find it is with their voice we judge ourselves. Not our own.
When we first learned to feel shame and guilt, it was by the judgment of others. A caregiver, most of the time. Someone we trusted with our love. Who we trusted loved us. Then they go and make us feel badly about something we did. But they love us. They usually make us feel pretty good. Now, we’re not feeling so good around them. They made us feel pretty damn shitty.
Of course, we have to feel some kind of shame or guilt with things we do. Especially, if those things will harm others or is not for the greater good of our tribe. We can’t just do whatever we want to do. There are consequences that must be suffered to keep the tribe members in their place. Otherwise, it’s mass hysteria.
How that loved one introduces us to shame will determine how we deal with shame in the future. Will we lie to avoid that pain? Will we turn the shame into anger and rage against others to protect our fragile ego? Will we avoid social contact and all conflict at every expense just so we don’t feel the pain of shame?
How we deal with the pain of shame shows up in our daily lives. The decisions that we make are based on our thoughts and how we want to control what we say and do. Avoidance of things is one way to deal.
“I can’t say that.”
“I won’t say that.”
“What I say won’t matter, anyway.”
“What I say won’t make a difference.”
“What I want doesn’t matter to others.”
All that equals C, “I am unworthy.”
If the person we trusted with our love and who we felt love for took a little bit of that love away from us because of something we did then love is neither constant nor continuous. It is dependent on the other person. They have the control. They can take and give. And that love is based on my behavior meeting their expectations. To avoid pain I must meet their demands.
The logic problem: If I do what he wants, he will be happy with me. If he is happy with me, I will be loved. So, If I do what he wants then I will be loved.
And the negative of that is true, too. If I don’t do what he wants, he will be unhappy with me. If he is unhappy with me, I will not be loved. So, if I don’t do what he wants, then I will not be loved.
This logic runs deep in our brains and so we apply it to all of our relationships. Even the relationship we have with ourselves.
That is what makes self-forgiveness so difficult. We see all this negative about ourselves and find it difficult, if not impossible, to allow forgiveness of our negative thoughts, deeds or feelings. We believe we shouldn’t forgiven. We continuously punish ourselves. A punishment that if dealt by another person we would eventually tell them to screw off. If we had a strong enough ego to do so. A punishment that if we saw it being dealt out to a loved one, we would tell our loved one to get out of that relationship. Run as far away from that other person as they could get.
We can’t run away from ourselves. People try. Maybe you have tried. I have. Alcohol. Drugs. Gambling. Work. Anything to escape the punishing negative thoughts. Any way to get out of our heads. Running doesn’t work. It never does. The pain catches up. The damage from running starts to show; mentally and physically.
The great thing is we can learn to stop running and to stand our ground. There are hundreds of ways to learn. And we can learn them all. We can learn what works best for us. This isn’t a post on how or what to learn. It is just me saying, I understand. Our lives can feel like a mess. It took time for life to end up this way. Due to our upbringing, we made decisions based on our experiences and used whatever means necessary to avoid pain.
It took us awhile to get here and it’s okay that we are here. We can start by forgiving ourselves and saying one thing: “It’s okay that I am here.” Then we can encourage ourselves to do one thing: “I can start to make a change.”
That’s it. Don’t even start trying, yet. It took you years to get here. It will take years to be fully recovered. But just like not smoking or drinking for that first day of sobriety, you are one day healthier. Tell yourself each day, “It’s okay that I’m here. I can start to make a change.”
Remember, this is only the start. If you are looking for a tool, you can go back to my post on Don Miguel’s The Four Agreements.
In that post I wrote, “Miguel points out in his book that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to get it right every time.”
You don’t have to get it right every time or be perfect. It is okay that you are here.